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Meta-Vivienne meets the Metaverse

Vivienne Tam transcends reality with her latest, NFT-adorned collection at New York Fashion Week.

February 15, 2023

There is nothing more wonderfully off-putting than the idea of another universe, perhaps because it’s so difficult for us to fathom a version of ourselves in a reality that is not our own. But designer Vivienne Tam isn’t one to fall victim to fear, instead breaking all rules by creating her own reality  — the TAMverse — in her Fall/Winter 2023 collection.

Swan Sit, the creator of Tam’s metaverse, and model Jal Bui, who walked in the designer’s immersive show, expressed the same sentiment: Tam has always been one step ahead of the industry.

A model walks down the runway wearing N.F.T. hair accessories, a blue patterned minidress, leggings with Zodiac sign prints and black boots.
A model walks down the runway wearing a striped sweater, a plaid blazer, a plaid skirt, plaid leg warmers, a colorful balaclava and black boots.
A model walks down the runway wearing a coral and lavender sweater with an N.F.T. drawing, cargo pants, a balaclava and black boots.
Model Jal Bui, Vivienne Tam, Fall/Winter 2023 Collection, New York Fashion Week. (Roshni Raj for WSN)
A model walks down the runway wearing a long, ruffled purple dress with Zodiac sign designs, a sequin jacket, a lavender balaclava and black boots.
A model walks down the runway wearing a blue and pink striped long-sleeve top, a decorated mesh dress with a slit down the middle, a black fluffy hat, tall black leg warmers and black boots.

Before Bathing Ape NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, paraded down the runway, attendees arrived to find two rooms, both washed in electric pink. One was the room they walked into, and the other a digital replica of that exact same room, projected onto the screen at Spring Studios — a duplicate in the Metaverse.

“We mirrored the real world to the Metaverse down to the purple-pink hue of the room, down to the New York skyline,” Sit said, noting that the Metaverse version of the show was accurate even behind the show, offering special access to a virtual portal showing hair and makeup being done backstage.

A model walks down the runway wearing a striped sweater, a purple woven jacket with green sleeves, high green socks, denim leg warmers, a blue-and-white crocheted bag and black boots.
Vivienne Tam, Fall/Winter 2023 Collection, New York Fashion Week. (Roshni Raj for WSN)

Tati Gabrielle from the hit Netflix show “You” and Zoë Chao from HBO Max’s “Love Life” sat arm-in-arm at the physical show with Christine Ko, who stars in Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building.” A small TV with a ring light sat in the corner of the room next to the glass windows, out of the way of the curved, white benches embracing the runway’s center. Curious attendees approached the TV, watching as a camera linked their reflection to the Metaverse displayed on the screen. In the Metaverse, each attendee’s persona was housed in a small box that read “IRL,” which digital attendees could interact with.

“We had these portals where people could talk to each other,” Sit said. “It was important to us that whether you come to the show in real life or in the virtual world, you’re an equal. For us, it was an extension of the real world to break that fourth wall and make sure that everyone is included.”

The opening model of the show walks down the runway in dim lighting against the TAMverse backdrop with a dress decorated with N.F.T.s, green leggings and arm warmers, pink and red sleeves, and tall boots.

Despite the futuristic, utopian scenes of Hong Kong that began migrating across the screen as the lights dimmed, all attention remained on the physical — the clothes, and the NFTs draping off of them. One by one, models rolled out, sauntering to the pop beat of “Sit Still, Look Pretty” in varying styles of platform Dr. Martens and streetwear jackets that were adorned with puffy, quilted NFTs. 

Though the collection was interlaced with technology, there were still elements that remained true to Tam’s earlier work. Ancient symbols from oracle bone script, China’s earliest language, were reinterpreted onto patterned stockings alongside the 12 zodiac animals, which were skimming across sheer sleeves in a playful nod to Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. A few of Tam’s designs included Ghanaian Adinkra symbols depicting the sun, the moon and layered circles — all of which found their way onto knits, long dresses and embroideries.

A model walks down the runway wearing an orange, fluffy hat, a patterned crop top, a patterned skirt, flower-patterned leggings, a fleece coat, tall black leg warmers and black boots.
A model walks down the runway wearing a black fleece hat, a black-and-white striped crop top, jacket and pants, along with black boots.
A model walks down the runway wearing a beige fleece hat, a patterned long-sleeve dress, tall black socks, denim leg warmers and black boots.
A model walks down the runway wearing a green plaid jacket, a brown balaclava, a green hat, a patterned top and leggings, a leather skirt with a belt, brown leg warmers, black boots and a bag.
A model walks down the runway wearing an N.F.T.-patterned jacket and jeans, a zodiac sign-patterned top and leggings, a brown balaclava and black boots.
A model poses on the runway wearing a black turtleneck crop top, a red jacket, red pants, a black fleece hat and black boots.

The show’s clothing lineup offered elevated textures, turning sexy and sturdy denim into leg warmers that rested above knee-high socks. Neon colors lit up two-toned knit balaclavas and fuzzy faux-fur bucket hats, brought back down to earth only by dark wash denim jeans held up by Miu Miu-esque double-belted leather. One model donned perhaps the most important outfit of them all — a set with a single print that combined all of Tam’s favorite NFTs to form a graphical map of Hong Kong. 

“This is a breakthrough,” Tam said. “We’re bringing the virtual world and the physical world together. I just want to bring compassion and harmony to the world.” 

Tam stood in front of her metaverse at the end of the show, with her eyes closed and hands pressed together, as if in prayer. 

Vivienne Tams wears a red and white patterned dress. She prays with two hands enclosed in front of her mouth, standing in front of a purple backdrp.

The loudspeaker hummed sweetly, growing progressively louder until the finale, when an invisible voice spoke a soft thank you to Tam and the audience — leaving us with a final token of wisdom, rather than the digital ones we had already been given. 

“Make peace more fashionable than war,” the invisible voice proclaimed to the crowd at the show’s after party.

If peace comes with the purchase of a Vivienne Tam NFT, I’m confident we’re all sold.

Contact Olivia Liu at [email protected]

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